Now Playing: JxJ Festival of Jewish Film and Music

“The power of storytelling is the soul of our culture,” asserts filmmaker Yael Luttwak, who became JxJ’s artistic director in 2022. JxJ stands for the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center’s year-round presentation of Jewish film and music, the main event being an annual spring festival (until 2019, two separate festivals).

Opening night of the 2024 JxJ Festival was May 9. It continues through this Sunday, May 19, in two spaces at the DCJCC — the 236-seat Aaron & Cecile Goldman Theater, home of Theater J, and a new, 140-seat cinema venue, Cafritz Hall — and two outside the District: Bethesda Row Cinema in Maryland and Cinema Arts Theatre in Fairfax, Virginia.

Ready to jump right in? Tonight, Monday, May 13, at the DCJCC you can watch “The Child Within Me,” a documentary about singer-songwriter Yehuda Poliker, at 6 p.m., followed by the romantic feature “Elik and Jimmy” at 7:50 p.m. Or — also tonight at the JCC at 6 p.m. — you can take in six shorts by recent graduates of the Jerusalem Sam Spiegel Film School, with two of the directors on hand. After that program, at 8:20 p.m., comes “On the Road to Eilat,” a father-and-son tale that won Best Israeli Feature, Best Actor, and Best Cinematography at the 2022 Jerusalem Film Festival.

Adar Shafran’s 2023 comedy “Running on Sand” will be screened at the Edlavitch DCJCC on May 19, closing night of the JxJ Festival.

A few miles northwest, Bethesda Row Cinema will screen “Kidnapped,” set in 19th-century Bologna, tonight at 6 p.m., followed at 8:35 p.m. by “The Goldman Case,” about the 1975 trial of a left-wing activist in France.

In Hebrew, Arabic, Italian, French and Greek, these films — and the festival’s other foreign-language films — are all subtitled in English. For the subtitle-averse, two English-language options are the offbeat comedy “No Name Restaurant,” playing at 8 p.m. on Tuesday in Bethesda and on Wednesday in D.C.; and a program of six satirical shorts, playing at 8:35 p.m. on Tuesday in D.C. and at 6 p.m. on Sunday in Fairfax.

Also in English are four documentaries: “Merchant Ivory” (the Jewish connection being Merchant Ivory screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala), at 6 p.m. on Wednesday and Saturday in D.C.; “Vishniac,” about Roman Vishniac, who photographed the pre-World War II Jewish community in Berlin, at 8:20 p.m. on Wednesday in Bethesda and at 6 p.m. on Thursday in D.C.; “How to Come Alive With Norman Mailer” — “6 tumultuous marriages, 9 beloved children, 11 bestsellers, 3 arrests, and 2 Pulitzer Prizes” — at 6 p.m. on Thursday in D.C.; and “Rabbi on the Block,” about Rabbi Tamar Manasseh’s efforts to connect the Jewish and Black communities on Chicago’s South Side, at 8:10 p.m. on Thursday in D.C., with a post-screening conversation between Rabbi Manasseh and director/producer Brad Rothschild, moderated by Moishe House’s Tiffany Harris.

Closing night, Sunday, May 19, at the JCC will offer two contrasting experiences. At 6:30 p.m. in Cafritz Hall, a program titled “The 21%: The Lives of Arab Citizens of Israel” will include a screening of two episodes of the Israeli TV show “Madrasa,” a panel discussion with three young Israelis — one Jewish and two Palestinian — and a reception. At 7:30 p.m. in the Goldman Theater, a reception will precede an 8:20 p.m. screening of “Running on Sand,” a comedy about an Eritrean refugee in Israel who is mistaken for a Nigerian soccer star.

Let’s not forget the music “J,” which tends to be overshadowed by the film “J” in JxJ. Remaining musical performances, all at the JCC: the Polyphony Quartet playing classical selections and traditional Arab and Jewish music, at 6 p.m. on Saturday; pianist Daryl Davis and woodwind player Seth Kibel presenting a program about legendary R&B label Chess Records, founded by Polish Jewish immigrants, at 8:20 p.m. on Saturday; bilingual children’s authors and performers Mister and Missus G, at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday; and (apparently sold out) the Maccabeats, at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.

The complete JxJ Festival schedule is available at Tickets can be purchased online, by calling 202-777-3210 or in person at the Edlavitch DCJCC, Monday to Friday from 1 to 5 p.m. and an hour prior to performances.

JxJ Festival Venues

Edlavitch DCJCC, 1529 16th St. NW, Washington, DC

Bethesda Row Cinema, 7235 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda, MD

Cinema Arts Theatre, Fair City Mall, Fairfax, VA



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